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The Blood Confession, by Alisa M. Libby Book Review | SFReader.com
The Blood Confession, by Alisa M. Libby Genre: YA Horror Publisher: Penguin Published: 2006 Review Posted: 1/16/2008 Reviewer Rating:
Reader Rating: 9 out of 10
The Blood Confession, by Alisa M. Libby
Book Review by C. Dennis Moore
Have you read this book?
Author Alisa M. Libby states on her website that there are two versions of the Elizabeth Bathory story. One states Countess Bathory was an evil woman who bathed in the blood of hundreds of young virgins in order to retain her youth and beauty. The other story says Countess Bathory was framed for these crimes. "This may be true, but for the sake of fiction I found the story of a woman who bathed in blood more interesting than the story of an innocent woman framed."
The Blood Confession, Libby's first novel, is a fictionalized account of the Bathory story, telling of Countess Erzebet Bizecka, the neglected daughter of an absent Hungarian Count and his insane wife. It's the late 1500s and war is brewing with the Turks, but inside the walls of Castle Bizecka, little Erzebet just wants to be free of the confines of her life. Her teacher, Father Pugrue, makes her confess to sins she doesn't truly believe in, while her mother insists her daughter died at birth, and her father is interested only in marrying her off to the Emperor in order to gain more prestige for the Bizecka name. But Sinestra, the mysterious figure that appears to Erzebet off and on throughout her life, assures her she need not fear the prophecy foretelling her early death, and she need not sit idly by while the world happens around her.
Castle Bizecka, Sinestra convinces her, is Erzebet's to rule, and she has the power to make it into Heaven or Hell with herself as its god.
Erzebet is fascinated from an early age with beauty and blood, and soon she has convinced her servants to join her in her tower chamber where Erzebet takes a little of their blood each night in which to bathe her face and retain her perfect beauty.
Erzebet's personal handmaiden Rowena, and Erzebet's only friend Marianna, would never approve of her methods, so she bribes her servants to secrecy with fine jewels and beautiful gowns. Eventually, however, a face wash isn't enough and Erzebet's bloodlust consumes her until she has her servants string up other young girls so their blood can rain down on Erzebet while she sits in her tub in the dungeon. We know from the opening chapter as Erzebet sits confined to her tower, guarded and held prisoner, that eventually she will be caught, but not before much more blood is shed and Erzebet descends even further into madness.
For the most part I did enjoy The Blood Confession, although to be honest it was a struggle. Twenty-three days it took me to read this book and that's a LONG time for only 389 pages. I can't say with certainty just why it took so long to get through this novel, it could have been a number of things. The pace dragged on forever at first--Erzebet doesn't shed blood until halfway through the book. The writing was . . . mundane. Libby gets her point across, she says what she needs to say to tell her story, but there's just no flash behind it. And from the beginning Erzebet is never a likable character. She struck me from page one as a very egocentric, thoughtless woman who's only concern in life is her own wellbeing, no matter who that means she has to hurt in the process. And when Erzebet meets Marianna, I never really bought the friendship as being as meaningful as Libby wanted it to seem. There was always a part of me that expected Erzebet to bathe in Marianna's blood, even when she was proclaiming Marianna the only person who ever truly mattered to her. Erzebet saw Marianna as a possession, and this was only solidified when, under the pretense of keeping her safe from the Turks, Erzebet has Marianna confined to the tower "for her own safety."
Erzebet Bizecka is an ugly, evil character and The Blood Confession is plagued with problems from the beginning. But I did finish it, the last half of it in two days, because eventually Libby hit her stride and really sank into the story. She got things moving--a big help because the first half of this thing was D. U. L. L.!--and while Erzebet was never a sympathetic character, her madness did make for some interesting reading:
"I had killed her, buried her, and little fuss had been made over her disappearance. She was the unclaimed dead, likely to have been killed by illness or childbirth eventually. They were disposable, these extra humans stumbling blindly around God's earth. No wonder she was such an angry ghost--haunting was the only device left to her, and she was far more effective as a ghost than she had been as a living girl."
I think that's just about the coldest thing I've ever read. It shows not only the level of Erzebet's madness, but also how far above everyone else she feels.
The Blood Confession contains a little too much of what I call the Anne Rice Flow (Libby wants to write the flowery "Oh woe is me" prose but without the attention to detail Rice includes; Erzebet mentions the pearls and the silk, but I never got a solid picture of the castle or the details that make up this world), but it's a first novel and my hope is that this was a style particular to this story and not indicative of Libby as a writer in general. I can only take so much of the Flow, and I'm sure that had a hand in my inability to get through this book as quickly as I should have.
For a first novel, it's a good start, if a bit gimmicky (the bottom of the pages has been stained red, as if the book has been dipped in blood. Get real!), but I can see Libby finding an audience--The Blood Confession is marketed as a young adult novel and that's probably the best choice as I can't see a huge number of adults lining up for more, but I could probably name twenty goth chicks I went to school with who would have eaten this right up.
Overall The Blood Confession works, but as a rule I need something with a little more substance--and flair--to keep me coming back for future novels.
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